Vegetarian Chili


Yep, another soup recipe. We really do eat other things, it’s just so cozy to have soup when we refuse to turn on the electric heat since the 200 euro electric bill we got last month!

Preparation: 25 minutes

Total cook time: 1 hour

Servings: 8

What you need:

3 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
2 onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 green or red chili pepper (we’re just happy to find any here), cut into tiny bits
1 tsp chili powder
2 carrots, cut into 1/4″ rounds
1 zucchini, cut into 1/4″ rounds
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 cups tomato puree
1-2 cups red kidney beans (pre-cooked or canned)
1-2 cups white navy beans (pre-cooked or canned)
1 cup canned corn (not the creamed stuff, please)

What to do

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. It’s ready when you splash a drop of water into it and it sizzles. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and chili powder and cook another 5 minutes. Then add the carrots and zuchini and cook for about 10 minutes, until the zuchinni begins to take on some color from the oil. Add the tomato paste and puree and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the beans. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 30-40 minutes, until the carrots are soft. Add the corn and cook until it’s hot and mixed in, about 5 minutes.

Serve with grated cheese (I prefer Guyere or Emmenthal) and sour cream (or creme fraiche if sour cream is not available). Don’t forget the hearty whole-grain bread.

Optional add-ins: quinoa grains (cooked seperately first, then added) or couscous (which you can add right to the pot after the beans).

Wedding Shawl


My first lace project was a shawl I made for our wedding. Because the average weather for late December in Sarasota is in the 60s, I thought it would be smart to make a cover-up to match my dress. In the end, we were sweating, so I didn’t actually need to wear it. It came in handy at the rehearsal dinner, however, as my talented, artistic cousin, Kristen, wore it all evening (she’s wearing it while drawing in the photo at left)

I knit this lace out of 100% silk yarn purchased from Purl in Soho (NY). For a truely airy lace, I should have used a thinner yarn, but I just fell in love with the silk yarn that perfectly matched my antique-looking ivory dress.

The pattern is below. It is repeated nine times across, with an edge of 2 stitches, always knit, and adding a border of 4 rows on each end. In between each charted row, knit a row all the way across.

0 / – – – \ 0
– – 0 ^ 0 – –
– 0 / – \ 0 –
/ 0 – – – 0 \
– / 0 – 0 \ –



Recipe for a Mitten


Knit mittens are a quick (3-4 hour) project that is quite satisfying because you see instant results. They are also great gifts that not overwhelming to tackle and still show you care enough to make something with your own hands.

I’ve been making mittens for about a decade, and here is my secret recipe:


~Four size 4 double-pointed needles
~Two skeins worsted Lose Weight Exercise wool
~Yarn needle

What to do:

*Note: pattern is for the LEFT mitten. Numbers of stitches for the RIGHT mitten are written in parentheses.

Cast on 40 stitches and spread over three double-pointed needles (12, 12, and 16 works well).

rows 1-20: *knit 2, purl 2* repeat until end of row
row 21: knit the whole row
row 22: knit 18 (20), increase 1, knit 2, increase 1, knit 20 (18)
rows 23-24: knit the whole row
row 25: knit 18 (20), increase 1, knit 4, increase 1, knit 20 (18)
rows 26-27: knit the whole row
rows 28: knit 18 (20), increase 1, knit 6, increase 1, knit 20 (18)
rows 29-30: knit the whole row
row 31: knit 18 (20), increase 1, knit 8, increase 1, knit 20 (18)
rows 32-33: knit the whole row
row 34: knit 18 (20), increase 1, knit 10, increase 1, knit 20 (18)
rows 35-36: knit the whole row
row 37: knit 18 (20), increase 1, knit 12, increase 1, knit 20 (18)
rows 38-39: knit the whole row

Congrats! You now have 14 thumb stitches added onto your second needle.

row 40: knit 18, then move the next 14 stitches onto a stitch holder (I just thread some extra yarn through these stitches and tie them off for later). Now increase 2 stitches to the 18 stitches you’ve already knit this row. Knit the rest (20 stitches) of the row.
rows 41-61: knit the whole row

You will now decrease to finish the top. Make sure the mitten is big enough at this point to cover your pinky finger. I find it useful to redistribute the stitches at this point, so that you have 20 on one needle, and 10 stitches on each of the others. That way, you are decreasing at the beginnings and ends of needles and it’s easier to keep track.

row 62: knit 1, slip 1, knit 1, pass slipped stitch over, knit 14, knit 2 stitches together, knit 2, slip 1, knit 1, pass slipped stitch over, knit 14, knit 2 stitches together, knit 1.
row 63: knit the whole row
rows 64, 66, and so on: decrease 1 stitch at each end of the mitten, as you did in row 62 (that means decreasing a total of 4 stitches on each decrease row)
rows 65, 67, and so on: knit the whole row

Continue decreasing until you have only 4 stitches left on each side (8 stitches total). You can finish the end by weaving thread through the stitches so that it is seamless, or you can “cheat” (this is what I usually do) by just using a yarn needle and going through each loop and pulling it like a cinch sack.

Finish the thumb:

Distribute the 14 thumb stitches onto three needles. Knit 16 rows or until the thumb is long enough to fit your own thumb. You can close off the thumb using the same cheating method described above.

Finishing: You will need to sew in all of the loose yarn ends by turning the mitten inside out. It’s important to sew up the hole that is formed at the base of the thumb, so use one of the yarn ends to close it up.


**Variation: draw your own snowflake on graph paper and incorporate it into the mitten design. Using two colors means doubling up the yarn, so the mittens will be even warmer.


Working on another baby sweater


There will be three new babies in my circle come June, and that means… three more baby sweaters! I bought some cotton yarn at Loisirs et Creation, which was having a sale, and then I drew this simple sailboat motif. My only problem is that I have run out of white cotton yarn, and I still have another 1/3 of the sweater to make! I went back to the store today, to no avail. I may need to make one of the panels an inverse image, since I have plenty of blue. I’ve just broken what must be the first rule in knitting – make sure you have enough yarn for your project…and certainly do not buy yarn on sale if you are hoping to find more later!

Soupe au pistou

We had a dinner party for six last night, and rather than spend hours fretting over a new recipe, I went with an old stand-by: la soupe au pistou. “Pistou” is French for “pesto” – the final ingredient you add to each bowl as you serve it. It’s a hit for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, and it’s so easy and inexpensive, it’s great for a crowd. No complicated techniques, all you need is time near the cooking pot.

Preparation: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 3-4 hours

Servings: 8

What you need

4 tablespoons olive oil
one bulb of garlic (yes, the whole thing), minced
two medium onions, diced
2 carrots, cut into 1/4″ rounds
4 small potatoes, skinned and diced into 1″ cubes
1 zucchini, cut into 1/4″ rounds
1 heaping handful green beans, tips removed
2 cups white beans, pre-soaked overnight, or canned beans, drained
pesto sauce (store bought is just fine, avoid brands with lots of extra fillers)

What to do

Cook the pre-soaked beans in boiling water for one hour. Continue to simmer over low/medium heat as you cook the other ingredients. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium/high heat, then add the onions and garlic. Cook until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and cook a further 5 minutes. Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Then add the potatoes and cook about 10 minutes. Add the zucchini and green beans and bring to a boil once more. Strain the white beans, add them to the soup, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for at least one hour. To serve: spoon into wide soup bowls and add one teaspoon pesto sauce to the center of each. Optional garnish: basil leaves.

Note: This soup tastes even better after it sits for a while, so it can be made a day ahead of time.

DIY Bouquets and Boutonnières


We didn’t hire a florist for our wedding; we ordered roses, orchids, hypercium, and ginger flowers in bulk and made our own centerpieces, bouquets, and boutonnières. It’s surprisingly easy, with a few tricks and the right supplies. I’ve just put together two pdf files with step-by-step instructions for DIY flowers. Of course there are plenty of sites that explain these steps as well, but I thought I’d show our simplified amateur version. The instructions are filed under “projects” in the column on the right.

Outlet shopping à la française

Marques Avenue

The outlet mall craze has made it to France, for better or worse. I discovered this yesterday when, after a productive week, a friend and I decided to take advantage of les soldes (the sales that are only held twice a year). After a crowded metro ride on the line 13, to the Mairie de Saint Ouen stop, and then a short walk to the Ile St. Denis, we arrived at Marques Avenue. It was extremely busy, but we found some surprisingly good deals. I bought a dress at Chattawak for under 40 euros, and picked up a cotton sweater at Mango for 8. This is the place to go for French linens as well. We’ll definitely be stocking up on Deschamps towels and sheets before leaving Paris. One major drawback is the availability of food options: there is only one café there, offering a few sandwiches and very little seating. Pack a lunch and wear your walking shoes!

Re-discovering the Nabi Painters

Denis, La Couronne de MargueriteDenis, La Route au CalvaireSerusier, Le Talisman

If you are unfamiliar with any late-nineteenth century art movement but Impressionism, I invite you to explore the paintings of the post-impressionist Nabi group. Similar to the art nouveau decorative aesthetic, the Nabis (a name that means “prophet” in Hebrew) broke with naturalism to paint subjects beyond the visible. Paul Sérusier even went so far as to paint a proto-abstract work inspired by Gauguin’s theories and entitled The Talisman.

The youngest member of the group, Maurice Denis, was also the group’s theorist. Denis wrote in his journal from age 15 about a rebirth in painting, and one that would push the religious experience into the modern world. In his work we see this combination of the modern aesthetic and spiritual subject matter. The Musée d’Orsay is showing room after room of his paintings from 1889 to 1941, in an exhibition that ends January 21. It is well worth the extra euro or two.

Cake for a King

Galette des Rois

We returned to Paris in time to still catch some of the Epiphany festivities. “Festivities” meaning that our grocery store still had a display of champagne and kings’ cakes ?? la galette des rois. In this part of France, the cake is round and flaky, with a buttery coating and filled with a sweet almond paste. The surprise is the ceramic “fève” ?? originally a bean and now a little charm only sometimes relating to the story of the Three Kings of Orientar, as we used to call them ?? hidden inside. He or she who finds the charm in his or her slice is named king or queen, wears a paper crown, and chooses a queen or king for the day.
In English, this tradition is apparently called the Twelfth Night cake, although I never celebrated it until moving to Europe, since in the U.S. it’s mainly a southern tradition centered around New Orleans.  One of the wonderful things about living abroad is the little variations on familiar customs and holidays, like Christmas and Epiphany.  There just always seems to be a reason to enjoy a new culinary experience!

New File Uploads!

Crosley Drawing pic

On the right column of this site, you will see a new box containing various links of interest. In the bottom section, under “projects,” you may click on any of the links listed there to download corresponding files. These could be useful as samples or to print off and use yourself. If you need any help with your custom project, just holler.